The royals have always been figures of fascination for their subjects – from the intrigue of the early Game of Thrones-worthy battles for the crown, to today’s rather more friendly modern manifestations in which the public jostle for selfies with their favourites. The family has arguably never been more popular, as the younger generation continue to navigate 21st century life on their own terms, engaging with the public under The Queen’s steadfast leadership. With camera phones capturing every outing, they have rarely been more visible. However, despite the family’s enthusiastic adaptation of the latest forms of communication (The Queen’s first tweet received thousands of retweets within minutes), the odds of Joe Public discussing the various merits of Huggies versus Pampers with William over a pint at their local are still fairly low.
Luckily, this weekend’s UK Premiere of documentary William, Kate, and George: The New Royals on True Entertainment – one of a number of documentaries playing throughout the channel’s Royal Weekend – will give audiences an intimate insight into the lives of the young Royals. Following the family on last year’s trip down under, the programme delivers a glance at the pressures and pleasures of raising a (gloriously well-dressed) baby boy who is in line for the throne, and provides an idea of what we can expect for the early years of George’s soon-to-be-born sibling.
The documentary is just the latest in a long-line of royal portrayals – both documentary and fictional – to have appeared on our screens. We’re all familiar with Helen Mirren’s miraculous and Oscar®-winning portrayal of The Queen, and the magnificent Best-Picture-for-the-ages The King’s Speech. But what if, in the spirit of King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, you’re seeking a change of pace? What about those lesser-known but equally regal royal flicks? In preparation for this weekend’s documentary-bonanza, we’re rolling out the red carpet for Crown Jewels in the Rough: Alternative Royal Films You MUST See!
1. A Man for All Seasons (1966)
A close-friendship-turned-rivalry changed the history of England, and was perfect fodder for a critically-acclaimed film adaptation. When Lord Chancellor of England, Thomas More, refuses to pressure the Pope into granting King Henry VIII a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, he must come face-to-face with his monarch. Battling between his principles and loyalty, More must also contend with Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell, as he navigates his increasingly perilous position in the courts.
Having played Thomas More in the stage version, Paul Scofield shines on screen, colouring More with depth, control, and intellect. Scooping up an incredible 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Scofield, this film kept its head and, nearly 50 years on, remains one of the best. Robert Shaw’s portrayal of King Henry VIII almost added some gold to the Buckingham Palace trophy cabinet, scoring an Oscar®-nomination.
2. William & Kate (2011)
Spot the difference. The plausibly royal-named New Zealander Nico Evers-Swindell takes on the role of Prince William, with Camilla Luddington as the future Duchess Kate. This straight-to-television original story might not have the award-winning pedigree of the other films on this list, but prepare yourself a stiff Pimms beforehand, and we guarantee you’ll have just as much fun watching it.
The definition of a guilty pleasure, William & Kate might take serious liberties with the young royal’s early romance – at least we don’t think Kate jumped from a dragon boat in order to swim over to the Prince watching on the waterside – but if you can ignore the ridiculousness, the flick will have you punching the air as William gets on one knee in front of a badly CGI’d Kenyan sunset.
3. The Madness of King George (1994)
You would have to be mad not to take a look at this critically-acclaimed adaptation of the popular play. He’s lost the colonies in America and now he’s losing his mind. Witty and endearing, this pitch-black feature film depicts the true story of the aging but spirited King George III of Great Britain (Nathaniel Hawthorne) whose mind begins to deteriorate in a time when mental health issues were little understood.
As the King runs wild through ineffective medical treatments, much to the dismay of his concerned wife (played by Helen Mirren) and startled subjects, he must also contend with a scheming son (Rupert Everett) who is determined to usurp the throne. No need for a second opinion: this film rules with its award-winning art direction and all-star cast – word on the palace grounds in 1994 was that Sir Nigel Hawthorne was robbed of that year’s Best Actor Oscar.
4. Henry V (1989)
Considered to be the best of Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespearean adaptations, if not one of the best Bard adaptations ever made (and there’s been a fair few…), Henry V is a gritty take on the classic play about the gallant English King and his bloody conquest of France – most notably, the brutal Battle of Agincourt.
At the hour of the film’s release, many balked at the notion that Branagh, a lowly officer of the silver screen, was willing to go to battle with Sir Laurence Olivier, the supreme modern commander of all things Shakespeare, and his definitive original adaptation. Yet, in his exceptional directorial debut, Branagh emerged victorious, receiving universal acclaim for this work as well as Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Actor. The film was also praised by critics for its spot-on costume design, powerful score, and for the manner in which it made the Shakespearean language accessible for audiences. Round up ye old band of brothers and revel in a screening of this legendary epic.
5. Mrs Brown (1997)
A true tale of a forbidden relationship within the monarchy of strait-laced Victorian England? Make that an affair involving the no-nonsense Queen Victoria herself? Can such a thing have possibly existed? Director John Madden pronounces that it was indeed the case in his rich historical drama about the Queen’s little known relationship that, like Victorian sensibilities, was almost lost to the ages.
After the death of her beloved Prince Albert, Queen Victoria (Judi Dench in her first feature film leading role), overcome with depression, withdraws from public life. To enable her recovery, royal advisors appoint a former servant and confidante of the late Prince, John Brown (Billy Connolly), to her charge. Brown’s untraditional manner proves to be the exact antidote Queen Victoria needs. However, the growing closeness also ignites scandal and threatens the British monarchy as the exact nature of the relationship is questioned. Take a peek into veiled Victorian society and decide for yourself if you believe the rumours with this engrossing royal picture.
William, Kate, and George: The New Royals gets its UK Premiere on True Entertainment (Sky 184, Virgin 189, Freeview 61, Freesat 142) at 9pm on Sunday 26th April.
Photo credit: Hot Gossip Italia via Flickr